Morning Fizz

State Representative Brady Walkinshaw to Challenge Longtime U.S. Representative Jim McDermott

Young state representative will take on veteran liberal congressman.

By Josh Feit December 3, 2015

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 1. State representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill), who was appointed to his seat exactly (and just) two years ago, and who then won election unopposed a year later, is running against longtime incumbent U.S. representative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7) for U.S. Congress.

(Learn to trust the Fizz; I reported last month, that Walkinshaw, 31, who had taken the unusual step of using his campaign fund to hire a political operative earlier this year, was going to run for McDermott’s seat.)

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Image: Josh Feit

McDermott should take note: Walkinshaw is a skilled organizer; he won his appointment by recruiting 61 new precinct committee officers (the nerds who get to vote during the appointment process), focusing on young and minority voters.

McDermott, a super lefty who was first elected in 1988, is best known for opposing the Iraq war after taking a 2002 trip there (“Baghdad Jim”) and presciently stating that president George Bush II would doctor up claims about Iraq’s nuclear weapons arsenal. McDermott, 79, also earned an additional 15 minutes by leaking ethically damning tapes of then (1997) Republican house speaker New Gingrich; McDermott was later sued in 2006 by the subsequent GOP house speaker John Boehner for illegally turning the tapes over to the press. After first losing and then appealing the case, McDermott eventually lost in U.S. District Court in 2008 and was forced to pay $1.05 million in Boehner’s attorneys fees along with having to pay about $700,000 in his own legal fees plus damages.

No matter. McDermott, a millionaire former physician, routinely wins reelection by 80 percent in the liberal Seventh Congressional District, which includes most of Seattle north of I-90. He was reelected for the 14th time last year getting nearly 81 percent with 204,000 votes against a no-name Republican. Perhaps the noisiest opposition McDermott faced was back in 2000 against Green Party candidate Joe Szwaja, who criticized McDermott for supporting international trade deals like NAFTA and the WTO. Recently, McDermott opposed the modern version, by coming out against the Transpacific Partnership, or TPP.

Walkinshaw, who’s gay (he married his partner earlier this year) and Cuban American, wasn’t directly critical of McDermott when I spoke with him about his announcement last night, saying repeatedly that he “had enormous respect” for McDermott, but that “it’s time for the district to have a conversation about the type of representation it wants.” He did say, though, that the Puget Sound needed "a stronger federal partnership," specifically bemoaning the lack of federal funding for our transit infrastructure.

Walkinshaw, an energetic state rep who passed a mental health reform bill that creates a fast track for families to get emergency health funding for relatives with urgent mental health needs, is a Princeton alum and trustee and a Fulbright Scholar who founded a youth outreach nonprofit in Ecuador. He's also a board member at Intiman theater, and he worked at the Gates Foundation on food systems before becoming a state rep.

He says he’s not running from the left or the right against McDermott, but “running for a different set of priorities,” quickly rattling off stats about inequality (“90 percent of people in the district haven’t returned to prerecession wages”) and homelessness (“2,000 new families become homeless each year”). Condemning “the gilded age” he noted the challenges Capitol Hill faces saying “just looking out my window here I see 10 to 15 construction cranes.” Walkinshaw was one of the state reps who met with Kshama Sawant to help her strategize about getting rid of the state ban on rent control.

However, Walkinshaw’s pitch seemed more optimistic than cantankerous. Citing the $15 minimum wage, legal pot, drug court, and juvenile justice reform, he said “the seventh congressional district should be to the Congress what the 43rd is to the state,” pitching Seattle as a progressive laboratory of innovative leadership. “It’s exciting what’s going on here,” he said, pledging, a bit vaguely, to “engage everybody” and noting "demographic and generational" changes in the district.

Walkinshaw's already lined up some endorsements, including state representative Jessyn Farrell (D-46, North Seattle), the vice chair of the house transportation committee who Walkinshaw worked with to add affordable housing requirements to transit spending in this year's $15 billion state transportation package. Also on his list of endorsements, state senator Marko Liias (D-21, Mukilteo), El Centro de la Raza leader Estela Ortega, and former Seattle city council member and former Gates Foundation administrative officer Martha Choe. And, oh, his Democratic establishment consultant, Christian Sinderman.

Of course, it's been a running local political guessing game for years to name the politicians who were waiting for McDermott to retire so they could run against him. Current Seattle mayor Ed Murray has always been on the list.

And of course, the McDermott game always involved the polite and passive Seattle pathology of waiting for McDermott to retire.

So, Ballsy move: Walkinshaw is the first mainstream aspirant to step in and make a play at nudging McDermott out.

I've also heard that former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan is thinking of running, though I wouldn't trust the Fizz on that one. 

McDermott says he's definitely running for another term.

 2. Almost exactly two years after Walkinshaw was appointed by 43rd District PCOs to his state house seat (Walkinshaw replaced then state representative, now state senator Jamie Pedersen in the musical chairs that followed then state senator Ed Murray's winning mayoral run), North Seattle's 36th District Democrats appointed former Progressive Majority director Noel Frame last night to take state representative Reuven Carlyle's open seat.

Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne, Ballard) is moving to the senate to take state senator Jeanne  Kohl-Welles's (D-36, Ballard, Queen Anne) seat. Kohl-Welles was elected to the King County council last month.

Frame ran for the 36th District seat in 2012 (PubliCola endorsed her), losing to current state representative Gael Tarleton (who will  now be Frame's district colleague.) Frame also went for Sally Clark’s open city council seat earlier this year (John Okamato got the appointment)—where she made a bold, personal speech about her own life as "a victim of sexual abuse" who deals with mental health issues.

Frame, a lefty with working class roots, beat out 36th District Democrats chair Jeff Manson after three dramatic rounds of voting, winning 99-91 last night.

3. I didn't get to this yesterday, but former Seattle Times state house reporter David Postman, who, since leaving the Times, went on to work briefly for mayor-elect Mike McGinn and Seattle developer Vulcan before becoming governor Jay Inlsee's head of communications, will take over as Inslee's chief of staff this month.

Postman will replace longtime Inslee confidante Joby Shimomura.

Postman's new title actually reads like a demotion from his current gig, which comes with the regal and unique title: "executive director of communications."

Postman has been a passionate press secretary, often sending out lengthy and candid on-the-record emails to reporters staking out Inslee's positions and taking on the Republicans. 

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